With an increasing number of teens and young adults suffering from depression, raising mental health awareness has never been more important than it is now. That’s the goal of World Mental Health Day on October 10. And this year, National Depression Screening Day falls on the same day.
According to the most recent research, one out of every five young people will experience some form of depression during their teen years. In addition, the suicide rate for teen girls has doubled over the past decade, and risen 31 percent among male teens. Furthermore, the number of young adults ages 18 to 25 who experience serious psychological distress increased by 71 percent from 2008 to 2017.
Experts ascribe this adolescent mental health crisis to a variety of factors, many of them linked to the negative impact of social media and technology use. These include nature deficit disorder, social isolation and loneliness, and sleep deprivation. In addition, our young people face the dispiriting prospect of inheriting a world endangered by climate change, political unrest, and economic disparity.
Symptoms of Depression
It can be difficult for parents to distinguish sadness vs. depression, or to tell the difference between teen depression and typical teen moodiness. But depression in teens is severe and ongoing—it lasts longer than a sad mood does.
Expert assessment can determine whether an adolescent is suffering from depression. A depression test or depression screening can also indicate whether a teen is at risk. Such screenings look for the following warning signs:
- Avoiding social situations
- Loss of interest in activities they use to enjoy
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Sense of despair, sadness, and hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of motivation
- Unexplained aches and pains, headaches, or stomach problems
- Difficulty concentrating, particularly for teens who used to be focused
- Feeling worthless, irritable, and frustrated
- Low self-esteem
- Disturbed sleep patterns; sleeping too much or too little
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Abusing alcohol or drugs as a form of self-medication to cope with the depression.
Teens who suffer from two or more of these signs of depression, for longer than two weeks, may be experiencing a depressive episode.
Types of Depression
Depression can manifest in a number of different ways, and treatment for each type may differ in terms of approach and length of time. Here are the main types of depression:
Major depression significantly affects daily functioning, including school, work, and relationships. It lasts for longer than two weeks, and can become acute.
Melancholic depression is a subtype of major depression that results in extreme irritability and worrying.
Seasonal depression is most often triggered in winter due to lack of sunlight, but can also take place during the summer.
Atypical depression symptoms include increased appetite/weight gain, excessive sleep, fatigue, emotional overreactions, and an extreme sensitivity to rejection.
Psychotic depression includes symptoms of psychosis, including a loss of contact with external reality.
Bipolar disorder encompasses a serious form of depression, in which individuals experience extreme highs and lows.
Depression Screenings Drive Mental Health Awareness
World Mental Health Day on October 10th of each year focuses on raising mental health awareness around the globe, through offering education and reducing stigma. The World Federation for Mental Health, an international organization with representatives from more than 150 countries, founded the day in 1992.
National Depression Screening Day takes place annually on the Thursday of the first full week in October. Created in 1990 by the organization Screening for Mental Health, it provides an opportunity for colleges, community-based organizations, and military installations to provide screening services and resources to increase mental health awareness.
Moreover, the US Preventative Services Task Force recommends that primary care doctors give depression screenings to all adults and adolescents. Regular screenings serve to catch depressive symptoms early. In addition, they help to destigmatize mental illness by bringing awareness to how common depression really is.
However, a depression screening is not the same as a professional diagnosis. Depression screenings indicate whether a person is suffering from depressive symptoms and provide a referral for additional support if necessary. But only qualified mental health professionals can definitively diagnose depression.
Treatment for Depression
Once a teen receives a depression diagnosis, treatment can begin. Treatment approaches for depression include the following clinical and experiential modalities.
Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT) is designed to address depression and the risk of teen suicide by repairing ruptured family relationships, so that young people feel safe enough to turn to their parents for help.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps teens identify self-defeating thoughts and assumptions and provides valuable insight.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) provides specific skills, like mindfulness and emotional regulation to address depressive symptoms.
Experiential modalities, such as art therapy, Adventure Therapy, and music therapy, give teens ways to process their emotions through self-expression and body-based practices.
Yoga and meditation provide positive coping skills and tools for managing stress.
In summary, both World Mental Health Day and National Depression Screening Day work to raise mental health awareness. And taking a depression screening that day might be an adolescent’s first step toward getting the help they need.